Ok, let’s get the obvious out of the way. No, this is not a horror film. If you are looking for zombies or cannibals, look somewhere else. Believe it or not, I Want To Eat Your Pancreas (Pancreas) is actually a slice-of-life, dramatic romance between two teenagers. There are no literal eating of bodily organs, pancreases or otherwise, anywhere in this movie. Which is a pity, as it really may have livened this rather predictable movie up.
All in all, this is a very divisive film. Half of its audience is going to absolutely love it, and will probably weep through every twist and turn of its emotional plot. The other half would rather actually have their pancreases eaten than have to stomach one more minute of its melodramatic story.
So what is this movie about? A guy (his name is not revealed till the end of the story, as it affects the plot, so let’s just call him Protagonist) finds the diary of his schoolmate Sakura Yamauchi (Lynn) while visiting the hospital one day. Flipping through it, he discovers she has pancreatic cancer, and is about to die.
Protagonist (Mahiro Takasugi) is the only person who knows about her cancer, and this forms a bond between him and Sakura. Sakura longs to experience many things before she dies, and decides to take Protagonist along on the quest to finish her bucket list. Problem is, he and Sakura are as different as pineapples and pillows. He’s an anti-social misfit who’d rather read a book than make a friend, while Sakura is bubbly and energetic. You don’t have to be an expert on romance movies to know what’s going to happen next.
Actually, it’s best you don’t know ANYTHING about romance movies at all, because every single trope of this genre gets tossed on screen in a very predictable way. This movie goes down a very conventional lovey-dovey path, with the characters doing the most stereotypical romantic things possible. It feels rather blah.
It’s a bit of a pity, as people have been waiting for this film for quite a while. Pancreas is based on a web novel by Japanese writer Yoru Sumino, published in 2014. The work became so popular that it entered print in 2015, and a live-action film (starring Minami Hamabe as Sakura and Takumi Kitamura as the Protagonist) was released in 2017.
Watching this animated film, you wonder what the fuss was all about. The characters come across as two-dimensional stereotypes: Sakura in particular feels like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and her over the top antics can come across as annoying at times. There is some mystery with her character – is she truly as innocent as she looks, or is she taking advantage of her sickness? – but this is never explored in an interesting manner.
The Protagonist, on the other hand, is so dull that you wonder what Sakura possibly sees in him. (Forget her pancreas, is she alright in the head?). The abrupt way she falls in love with him feels a lot like wish fulfilment, in the worst possible way.
The film’s worst aspect, however, is a sudden third-act dramatic twist that is so ridiculous, it completely derails the story. Despite being lightly foreshadowed, it feels like it comes from nowhere and wraps things up in a very cheap way.
Which is a pity, as from a technical aspect, Pancreas is wonderful. Its music, which features songs from the band Sumika, is really nice. The voice acting is well done, and the film is beautiful to look at: Scenes of spectacle, such as springtime cherry blossoms and a fireworks show on a beach, are gorgeously animated.
Certain moments are indeed very moving, and more sensitive audience members should bring a tissue box or two to the cinema.
The film also has one truly compelling scene: a bedroom encounter where darker undertones to two characters are revealed. For a moment, Pancreas starts to be interesting – what a pity then, it is all completely glazed over in the next scene.
All in all, if you’re looking for a story about a romance torn apart by disease, there are a lot of other movies out there who do a much better job of it. Eating this Pancreas will probably just leave a rather unsatisfying taste in your mouth.
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas
Director: Shinichiro Ushijima
Voice cast: Mahiro Takasugi, Lynn, Yukiyo Fuuji